In the Middle, You Find Jesus | Charlotte Gambill Book Review

I recently went to a women’s conference called Dare To Be by Natalie Grant and Charlotte Gambill. Natalie led worship and then Charlotte led the teaching. It was very inspiring and impacting! Charlotte opened my eyes to something in scripture I had never before thought about – the middle. Charlotte also wrote a book about this called The Miracle in the Middle: Finding God’s Voice in the Void. This is a fabulous book that I would recommend with you! Because I loved the conference and book so much, I want to share her message and expand on the topic.

In Mark 6:45-52, the story is shared where Jesus walks on water towards his disciples. In these verses, the men were in the middle of the trip between the land where Jesus was and the land on the other side. The boat was in the middle of the lake, far away from Jesus. I want to focus on the word- middle. This is pulled directly from verse 47, “Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land.”

How would you define the middle? For the disciples, they were literally in the middle of the water, but the middle can look different for everyone. Maybe you are in the middle of waiting for something, middle of a struggle, middle of a breakup, middle of singleness, middle of a conflict, there are lots of middles in our lives. Right now I am in the middle of trying to figure out what career to work towards. I would love to be at the end and know exactly what God wants me to do, but right now I am where God wants me, in the middle.

Being in the middle may not be comfortable, but it requires trusting that God will get you to the other side.

The disciples would have felt more comfortable if they would have been on land next to Jesus, and maybe they thought about turning around and going back to where they came from. Right now I am in the life stage of singleness. I have to choose daily to trust that God knows what he is doing. Some days I may want to run back to my old lifestyle of dating who I wanted instead of waiting for a Godly man. I want to run back to what I know is comfortable, but I don’t because I am trusting that God will use this middle to glorify himself.

The middle may not be comfortable, but it does have an end.

The enemy knows when we are in the middle. Because each step we take gets us closer to the other side and closer to a break through. Every middle is equal distance both ways, so sometime it would require the same amount of work to go back to the beginning as the end.

As humans, we don’t want the journey, we want the results. We want to get to the end. We want to know what decisions to make, be married, get past the conflicts, and get out of the boat!

In the middle is when you put to practice all that you say and believe. It may be easy on the shore to say that you believe God is good and that his plans are perfect, but how you live out your life in the middle is the proof.

In the middle you see the miracle. Jesus walks on water and comes to you. When you are thinking how will I ever make it to the other side, Jesus performs a miracle.

In the middle,  you find Jesus.

The greek word used for middle, mesos, in this passage is also found in another passage in the Bible. John 19:18,  “There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

So where was Jesus? In the middle. He was in the middle of dying a painful death for you and I. He was in the middle of saving us from the pain of our own sinful choices. He was in the middle of saving us from the hurt this world causes us. Jesus was in the middle!

When you are in the middle of your struggles, waiting for hope, or  just want to get to the other side, remember that Jesus is in the middle.

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Save

Without Jesus, Without Hope

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This semester I’m taking a class called Illness, Grief and Loss. Obviously, it is a sad class, but it is especially sad when most of the students have no hope.

Last week we had to write papers on how we define loss, what loss we have experienced, and how we cope with it. Then we had to present our papers to the class. Each story was sadder than the next. By the end of the class, students and even the professor, were in tears. Most of the presentations included stories of how each person experienced loss, but almost none of the students shared how they coped. This made me think, have they coped?

When you don’t know Jesus, you lack hope. Jesus provides you with hope and gives loss a purpose.

In chapter 11 of the book of John, there was a man named Lazarus who died. His two sisters, Mary and Martha, were devastated and weeped at Jesus’ feet. This created a chain of weeping. “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled… Jesus wept.” (verses 33 and 35)

This is similar to the experience I had in my class. One person’s sadness caused another to be saddened. Unlike my class experience, this story has hope.

Jesus turned the loss into a miracle. Jesus turned death to life. Jesus brought back Lazarus from death. He not only literally saved Lazarus, but he also spiritually saved many others. Immediately following the story of Lazarus, verse 45 says, “Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.”

God used loss to save people, to bring hope and a purpose.

When I refer to loss, I do not simply mean loss of lives by death. Loss can be found in many forms- divorce, friendship, moving to a new place, or change of plans. Here are some examples of the word loss found in the Bible – lose of time (Ex 21:19), loss of lives (2 Sam 18:7), uncertainty (Act 25:20), and loss of material goods (Acts 27:10).

Mary, Martha, and Jesus all felt sadness, pain, and grief, but every tear had a purpose. In our times of grief, we may only see the tears and may tend to focus on the present moment. If we look at grief through Jesus and his eternal perspective, we will see the world differently. Mary and Martha had no idea that lives would be spiritually saved that day, because they were focused on the pain, the loss of their brother. We too focus on the pain, and have no idea how God may use each of our experiences to glorify him.

Without Jesus, without hope. With Jesus, with hope.

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The Lower Case g “gods”

Who will you worship and serve, the God who blesses you or the gods you think will bless you?

Think of all the ways God blesses you daily, and yet we think other things will bless us more. How often do we think certain situations will bless our lives more than God can? For example, we live in a society that worships appearance, prestige, and success. These are good things, until they become gods in our lives. They become gods when we think they will bless and satisfy us more than a relationship with God.

God blesses us, daily, yet we think other things will bless us more. This is not a new idea. In the book of Joshua, Joshua lists all the ways God blessed the people. Here are just some of the ways God blessed the children of Israel: God made Abraham’s offspring many, brought them out of the plaque in Egypt, parted the red sea, led them out of the wilderness, destroyed their enemies, delivered them from their enemies, protected them, fought for them, and then gave them land to dwell in and fruit to eat (Joshua 24: 1-13). That is a lot of blessings.

Yet immediately after Joshua lists all of that, he warns the people that they get to make the decision of who to serve, and who to make their God.

Joshua 24:14-15 14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

God continuously blesses us, and what does he ask of us?

That we would choose daily to worship and serve him. What is interesting about this passage is the order of the sentences. First you have to stop worshiping (the lower case g) gods, and then you can serve (the upper case g) God.

How do we do that?
“Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.” -Joshua 24:23

What gods, lower case g, are you worshiping?

Serving God is a choice that we have to make daily. Each day we get to choose if we want to serve the eternal God of the universe or the fleeting gods of this world. It is your decision to make, so what will you choose?

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Maybe we have the wrong mindset.

What does it mean to be blessed?

The world defines blessed as having bliss, happiness, laughter, pleasure, earthly prosperity, possessions, or contentment. God defines blessed as the experience of hope and joy, independent of our outward circumstances. From this definition, a person can be blessed if they lack happiness, earthly prosperity, and pleasure. To some people – this would not be considered a blessed life.

This is what the Bible says:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”- Matthew 5:3-10

I don’t know about you, but when I am mourning or hungry I don’t feel blessed. In these moments it is so easy to focus on the problem. Maybe we have the wrong mindset.

God’s way of living contradicts the world’s way of living. The world might tell us one thing, but God tells us another. If we want to live for God we must be ready to do and say what the world views as strange. Think about how different your life would be if you realized that being blessed does not depend on your circumstances.

Look back at the verses in Matthew. When we give up our own rights and comforts, then we can receive everything that God has in store for us. God desires for us to receive the kingdom of heaven, to be comforted, to inherit the earth, to be satisfied, to receive mercy, to see God, to be called God’s sons and daughters.

“Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!” -Psalm 144:15

Is Jesus Christ the LORD of your life? Have you made the decision to give your life to him? Blessed are the people who have given their lives to Jesus. You can make that decision today and receive all that God has for you!

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Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

ImageJillian Michaels and yoga: two words I never thought would be paired together. Jillian, known for her role on the Biggest Loser, is one of America’s toughest trainers who always pushes people to reach their potential. While yoga is known for breathing, meditation, and relaxation. Last night I was doing a yoga video with Jillian called Yoga Meltdown, designed to sculpt muscle, burn fat, and tone the entire body.

During the workout, we were planking and Jillian said, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” At that moment sweat was dripping down my forehead, my arms were shaking, and my abs were in pain. I wanted to say to Jillian, “NO, I do not want to be uncomfortable. I hate feeling this pain!” I would rather stop, curl up in my blankets, and watch Gilmore Girls. That sounds like a great night to me! But would I grow? Would I reach my fitness goals? I’m not saying to never enjoy a night of relaxing and enjoying the best TV show around, because we all know that Gilmore Girls is the best. What I am saying is that if we want to grow, we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

For yoga or any other exercise, one has to push their limits in order to improve. If a person stayed comfortable and never felt pain, they would never be able to grow or reach higher possibilities. God does not want us to stay comfortable. He wants us to push our limits, go out of our comfort zone, and experience spiritual growth. One common misconception people have is that when they become a Christian, their lives will be easier and more comfortable. Paul the apostle said the exact opposite:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” -1 Peter 4:12-13

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” -2 Timothy 3:12

As a Christian, we will experience sufferings, but we need to rejoice over them and get comfortable being uncomfortable. I know this does not sound fun. No one wants to suffer or be uncomfortable, but if you want to experience spiritual growth, you will be uncomfortable. The good news is, God cares so much about us that he does not leave us to suffer. He comforts us. Always.

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” -Psalm 34:18

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” -Isaiah 43:2

We will suffer, but God will comfort. Let’s rejoice in our sufferings. Know that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character. (Rom 5:3-4)

Let’s get comfortable being uncomfortable!

What are practical ways you can live a more uncomfortable life today?

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Seeking Jesus

Seeking Jesus, Wholeheartedly-1Seeking Jesus, yet he still feels far away? How can this be when Jeremiah 29:13 says if you seek Jesus you will find him? Last week I repeated this verse over and over and wondered why Jesus still felt so far away. I realized that seeking Jesus is only part of the verse. I missed a whole phrase- with all your heart.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (NIV)

“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” (NLT)

I may have been seeking Jesus, but I definitely was not seeking him with my whole heart. In order to seek Jesus with our full heart, we have to figure out what else our heart is seeking. We have to discover the distractions and rid them from our lives.

Three things will help us discover the distractions and wholeheartedly seek God:

1) Turn from false Gods.

2) Plead with God for mercy.

3) Pursue purity.

What false gods are you believing? Why do you think these things will satisfy the desires of your heart? What do you need to ask forgiveness for? How can you pursue purity?

In the Old Testament, God promised the Israelites that if they searched for him with their whole hearts and souls they would find him. He warns them to not turn to idols and false Gods, but then says that even if people reach that point they can still seek and find God.

“There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell. But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him. For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you…”  Deuteronomy 4:29-31

We will never reach a point in life that is too far to turn back. Even while the Isralites worshiped idols, God welcomed them back. They realized the idols could not satisfy them, so they turned back to the one they knew could satisfy them.

Are you seeking Jesus today with all your heart and with all your soul? Turn from your false gods, beg for mercy, and pursue purity and you will find Jesus.

Seek Jesus, Wholeheartedly

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A Love Story

A Love StoryEvery girl dreams about the day she will find her Prince Charming. The guy who will love her for who she is, call her beautiful, and put the twinkle in her eyes. She dreams about the day he will sweep her off her feet, and the day they will fall madly in love, get married and ride off into the sunset.

Media is constantly telling us that our lives should be a love story. Countless movies, TV shows, and songs try to tell us that we need a man to save us from the misery of a single life. That we need a man to complete us. But what the media fails to mention, is each and every one of us are already part of a love story. An even bigger love story than any thing media could show us. Media tells us we need a savior, but they fail to mention correctly who he is.

Our Prince already came for us.

Romans 5:8 “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

He loved us so much that he didn’t just give us roses and a horse to ride off into the sunset, but he gave us eternal life.
Our prince loved us so much that he died for us.
He loved us so much that he moved Heaven and earth to prove it.
Jesus Christ is our prince.
Jesus Christ is our savior.

Proverbs 8:17 “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.”

He is always there for us.
He will never give up on us.
He loves us for who we are.

Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” 

He puts that sparkle in our eyes and a smile on our face.

We spend so much time dreaming about the day our Prince will come, that we never realize our Prince is already here. Our lives are already love stories!

Jesus Christ is our love story!

Jesus is knocking: Will you let Him in?

At church I heard a metaphor that I really loved, so I thought I would share.
Picture your life to be a house.
You are a house. And to have a relationship with Jesus, Jesus has to be living in the house. He doesn’t just keep his stuff in one room, no he has it spread out all over the house.

But some of our houses don’t contain Jesus.

Some people think there houses (lives) are too messy to invite Jesus in. They say they can’t invite him in until they clean up there house. Little do they know that Jesus is the only one capable of cleaning the house. He is standing outside knocking on the door holding a bucket and a broom ready to clean. If this is you,  open the door and invite him in.

Other people might have let Jesus into the house, but have kept him only in one room of the house. This means they have only let Jesus clean up one part of there life. If this is you, let him have free reign to your whole house.

Surrender your life to Jesus. let him into every single room, every single part of your life. I know this is challenging. In fact I’m preaching to myself as I type this, but I know it is worth it. When you let Jesus have control over every aspect of your life you will feel freedom.

 

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